The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit
eBook - ePub

The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit

Ralph Kimball, Margy Ross, Warren Thornthwaite, Joy Mundy, Bob Becker

Share book
  1. English
  2. ePUB (mobile friendly)
  3. Available on iOS & Android
eBook - ePub

The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit

Ralph Kimball, Margy Ross, Warren Thornthwaite, Joy Mundy, Bob Becker

Book details
Book preview
Table of contents

About This Book

A thorough update to the industry standard for designing, developing, and deploying data warehouse and business intelligence systems

The world of data warehousing has changed remarkably since the first edition of The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit was published in 1998. In that time, the data warehouse industry has reached full maturity and acceptance, hardware and software have made staggering advances, and the techniques promoted in the premiere edition of this book have been adopted by nearly all data warehouse vendors and practitioners. In addition, the term "business intelligence" emerged to reflect the mission of the data warehouse: wrangling the data out of source systems, cleaning it, and delivering it to add value to the business.

Ralph Kimball and his colleagues have refined the original set of Lifecycle methods and techniques based on their consulting and training experience. The authors understand first-hand that a data warehousing/business intelligence (DW/BI) system needs to change as fast as its surrounding organization evolves. To that end, they walk you through the detailed steps of designing, developing, and deploying a DW/BI system. You'll learn to create adaptable systems that deliver data and analyses to business users so they can make better business decisions.

Frequently asked questions

How do I cancel my subscription?
Simply head over to the account section in settings and click on “Cancel Subscription” - it’s as simple as that. After you cancel, your membership will stay active for the remainder of the time you’ve paid for. Learn more here.
Can/how do I download books?
At the moment all of our mobile-responsive ePub books are available to download via the app. Most of our PDFs are also available to download and we're working on making the final remaining ones downloadable now. Learn more here.
What is the difference between the pricing plans?
Both plans give you full access to the library and all of Perlego’s features. The only differences are the price and subscription period: With the annual plan you’ll save around 30% compared to 12 months on the monthly plan.
What is Perlego?
We are an online textbook subscription service, where you can get access to an entire online library for less than the price of a single book per month. With over 1 million books across 1000+ topics, we’ve got you covered! Learn more here.
Do you support text-to-speech?
Look out for the read-aloud symbol on your next book to see if you can listen to it. The read-aloud tool reads text aloud for you, highlighting the text as it is being read. You can pause it, speed it up and slow it down. Learn more here.
Is The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit an online PDF/ePUB?
Yes, you can access The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit by Ralph Kimball, Margy Ross, Warren Thornthwaite, Joy Mundy, Bob Becker in PDF and/or ePUB format, as well as other popular books in Informatica & Archiviazione di dati. We have over one million books available in our catalogue for you to explore.


Chapter 1
Introducing the Kimball Lifecycle
Before delving into the specifics of data warehouse/business intelligence (DW/BI) design, development, and deployment, we want to first introduce the Kimball Lifecycle methodology. The Kimball Lifecycle provides the overall framework that ties together the various activities of a DW/BI implementation. The Lifecycle also ties together the content of this book, setting the stage and providing context for the detailed information that unfolds in the subsequent chapters.
This chapter begins with a historical perspective on the origination and evolution of the Kimball Lifecycle. We introduce the Lifecycle roadmap, describing the major tasks and general guidelines for effectively using the Lifecycle throughout your project. Finally, we review the core vocabulary used in the book.
We recommend that all readers take the time to peruse this brief introductory chapter, even if you are involved in only one facet of the DW/BI project. We believe it is beneficial for the entire team to understand and visualize the big picture and overall game plan. This chapter focuses on the forest; each remaining chapter will turn its attention to the individual trees.

Lifecycle History Lesson

The Kimball Lifecycle methodology first took root at Metaphor Computer Systems in the 1980s. Metaphor was a pioneering decision support vendor; its hardware/software product offering was based on LAN technology with a relational database server and graphical user interface client built on a 32-bit operating system. Nearly a quarter century ago, analysts in large corporations were using Metaphor to build queries and download results into spreadsheets and graphs. Sounds familiar, doesn't it?
Most of this book's authors worked together to implement decision support solutions during the early days at Metaphor. At the time, there were no industry best practices or formal methodologies. But the sequential steps of decision support were as obvious then as they are now; our 1984 training manual described them as extract, query, analysis, and presentation.
The authors and other Metaphor colleagues began honing techniques and approaches to deal with the idiosyncrasies of decision support. We had been groomed in traditional development methodologies, but we modified and enhanced those practices to address the unique challenges of providing data access and analytics to business users, while considering growth and extensibility for the long haul.
Over the years, the authors have been involved with literally hundreds of DW/BI projects in a variety of capacities, including vendor, consultant, IT project team member, and business user. Many of these projects have been wildly successful, some have merely met expectations, and a few have failed in spectacular ways. Each project taught us a lesson. In addition, we have all had the opportunity to learn from many talented individuals and organizations over the years. Our approaches and techniques have been refined over time—and distilled into The Data Warehouse Lifecycle Toolkit.
When we first published this book in 1998, we struggled with the appropriate name for our methodology. Someone suggested calling it the Kimball Lifecycle, but Ralph modestly resisted because he felt that many others, in addition to him, contributed to the overall approach.
We eventually determined that the official name would be the Business Dimensional Lifecycle because this moniker reinforced the unique core tenets of our methods. We felt very strongly that successful data warehousing depends on three fundamental concepts:
  • Focus on the business.
  • Dimensionally structure the data that's delivered to the business via ad hoc queries or reports.
  • Iteratively develop the overall data warehouse environment in manageable lifecycle increments rather than attempting a galactic Big Bang.
Rewinding back to the 1990s, we were one of the few organizations emphasizing these core principles at the time, so the Business Dimensional Lifecycle name also differentiated our methods from others in the marketplace. Fast forwarding to today, we still firmly believe in these core concepts; however the industry has evolved since the first edition of the Lifecycle Toolkit was published. Now nearly everyone else touts these same principles; they've become mainstream best practices. Vocabulary from our approach including dimension tables, fact tables, and slowly changing dimensions have been embedded in the interfaces of many DW/BI tools. While it's both thrilling and affirming that the concepts have been woven into the fiber of our industry, they're no longer differentiators of our approach. Second, despite our thoughtful naming of the Business Dimensional Lifecycle, the result was a mouthful, so most people in the industry simply refer to our methods as the Kimball approach, anyhow. Therefore, we're officially adopting the Kimball Lifecycle nomenclature going forward.
In spite of dramatic advancements in technology and understanding during the last couple of decades, the basic constructs of the Kimball Lifecycle have remained strikingly constant. Our approach to designing, developing, and deploying DW/BI solutions is tried and true. It has been tested with projects across virtually every industry, business function, and platform. The Kimball Lifecycle approach has proven to work again and again. In fact, that's the reasoning behind the Kimball Group's “practical techniques, proven results” motto.

Lifecycle Milestones

The overall Kimball Lifecycle approach to DW/BI initiatives is illustrated in Figure 1.1. Successful implementation of a DW/BI system depends on the appropriate integration of numerous tasks and components. It is not enough to have the perfect data model or best-of-breed technology. You need to coordinate the many facets of a DW/BI project, much like a conductor must unify the many instruments in an orchestra. A soloist cannot carry a full orchestra. Likewise, the DW/BI implementation effort needs to demonstrate strength across all aspects of the project for success. The Kimball Lifecycle is similar to the conductor's score. It ensures that the project pieces are brought together in the right order and at the right time.
Figure 1.1 The Kimball Lifecycle diagram.
The Lifecycle diagram depicts the sequence of high level tasks required for effective DW/BI design, development, and deployment. The diagram shows the overall roadmap, while each box serves as a guidepost or mile/kilometer marker. We'll briefly describe the milestones, as well as provide references to the corresponding chapters in this book for more specific driving instructions.

Program/Project Planning

The Lifecycle begins with program and project planning, as one would expect. Throughout this book, project refers to a single iteration of the Kimball Lifecycle from launch through deployment; projects have a finite start and end. On the other hand, program refers to the broader, ongoing coordination of resources, infrastructure, timelines, and communication across multiple projects; a program is an overall umbrella encompassing more than one project. It should continuously renew itself and should rarely have an abrupt end.
Which comes first, the program or the project? Much like the classic chicken and egg conundrum, it's not always obvious which comes first. In some organizations, executive agreement is reached to launch a DW/BI program and then it's a matter of prioritizing to identify the initial project. In other situations, funding is provided for a single project or two, and then the need for program coordination is subsequently realized. There's no single right approach or sequence.
There's much greater consistency around project planning, beginning with the scoping of the DW/BI project. Obviously, you must have a basic understanding of the business's requirements to make appropriate scope decisions; the bi-directional arrow between the project planning and business requirements boxes in Figure 1.1 shows this dependency. Project planning then turns to resource staffing, coupled with project task identification, assignment, duration, and sequencing. The resulting integrated project plan identifies all tasks associated with the Kimball Lifecycle and the responsible parties. It serves as the cornerstone for the ongoing management of your DW/BI project. Chapter 2 details these launch activities, in addition to the ongoing management of the program/project.

Program/Project Management

Program/project management ensures that the Kimball Lifecycle activities remain on track and in sync. Program/project management activities focus on monitoring project status, issue tracking, and change control to preserve scope boundaries. Ongoing management also includes the development of a comprehensive communication plan that addresses both the business and information technology (IT) constituencies. Continuing communication is critical to managing expectations; managing expectations is critical to achieving your DW/BI goals.

Business Requirements Definition

A DW/BI initiative's likelihood of success is greatly increased by a sound understanding of the business users and their requirements. Without this understanding, DW/BI often becomes a technical exercise in futility for the project team.
Our approach for gathering knowledge workers' analytic requirements differs significantly from more traditional, data-driven requirements analysis. DW/BI analysts must understand the key factors driving the business in order to successfully translate the business requirements into design considerations. An effective business requirements definition is crucial as it establishes the foundation for all downstream Lifecycle activities. Chapter 3 provides a comprehensive discussion of tips and techniques for gathering business requirements.

Technology Track

Following the business requirements definition, there are three concurrent tracks focusing on technology, data, and business intelligence applications, respectively. While the arrows in the Figure 1.1 Lifecycle diagram designate the activity workflow along each of the parallel tracks, there are also implied dependencies between the tasks, as illustrated by the vertical alignment of the task boxes.
The technology track is covered in Chapters 4 and 5. Chapter 4 introduces overall technical architecture concepts, and Chapter 5 focuses on the process of designing your architecture and then selecting products to instantiate it. You can think of these two companion chapters as delivering the “what,” followed by the “how.”

Technical Architecture Design

DW/BI environments require the integration of numerous technologies. The technical architecture design establishes the overall architectural framework and vision. Three factors—the business requirements, current technical environment, and planned strategic technical directions—must be considered simultaneously to establish the appropriate DW/BI technical architecture design. You should resist the natural tendency to begin by focusing on technology in isolation.

Product Selection and Installation

Using your technical architecture plan as a virtual shopping list of needed capabilities, specific architectural components such as the hardware platform, database management system, extract-transformation-load (ETL) tool, or data access query and reporting tool must be evaluated and selected. Once the products have been selected, they are then installed and tested to ensure appropriate end-to-end integration within your DW/BI environment.

Data Track

The second parallel set of activities following the business requirements definition is the data track, from the design of the target dimensional model, to the physical instantiation of the model, and finally the “heavy lifting” where source data is extracted, transformed, and loaded into the target models.

Dimensional Modeling

During the gathering of business requirements, the organization's data needs are determined and documented in a preliminary enterprise data warehouse bus matrix representing the organization's key business processes and their associated dimensionality. This matrix serves as a data architecture blueprint to ensure that the DW/BI data can be integrated and extended across the organization over time.
Designing dimensional models to support the business's reporting and analytic needs requires a different approach than that used for transaction processing design. Following a more detailed data analysis of a single business process matrix row, modelers identify the fact table granularity, associated dimensions and attributes, and numeric facts.
These dimensional modeling concepts are discussed in Chapters 6 and 7. Similar to our handling of the technology track, Chapter 6 introduces dimensional modeling concepts, and Chapter 7 describes the recommended approach and process for developing a dimensional model.

Physical Design

Physical database design focuses on defining the physical structures, including setting up the database environment and instituting appropriate security. Although the physical data model in the relational database will be virtually identical to the dimensional model, there are additional issues to address, such as preliminary performance tuning strategies, from indexing to partitioning and aggregations. If appropriate, OLAP databases are also designed during this process. Physical design topics are discussed in Chapter 8.

ETL Design and Development

Design and development of the extract, transformation, and load (ETL) system remains one of the most vexing challenges confronted by a DW/BI project team; even when all the other tasks have been well planned and executed, 70% of the risk and effort in the DW/BI project comes from this step.
Chapter 9 discusses the overall architecture of the ETL system and provides a comprehensive review of the 34 subsystem building blocks that are needed in nearly every data warehouse back room to provide extraction, cleansing and conforming, and delivery and management capabilities. Chapter 10 then converts the subsystem discussion into reality with specific details of the ETL design and development process and associated tasks, including both historical data loads and incremental processing and automation.

Business Intelligence Application Track

The final concurrent activity track focuses on the business intelligence (BI) applications. General concepts and rationale are presented in Chapter 11, and design and development best practices are covered in Chapter 12.

BI Application Design

Immediately following the business requirements definition, while some DW/BI team members are working on the technical architecture and dimensional models, others should be working with the business to identify the candidate BI applications, along with appropriate navigation interfaces to address the users' needs and capabilities. For most business users, parameter-driven BI applications are as ad hoc as they want or need. BI applications are the vehicle for delivering business value from the DW/BI solution, rather than just delivering the data.

BI Application Development

Following BI application specification, application development tasks include configuring the business metadata and tool infrastructure, and then constructing and validating the specified analytic and operational BI applications, along with the navigational portal.


The three parallel tracks, focused on technology, data, and BI applications, converge at deployment. Extensive planning is required to ensure that these puzzle pieces are tested and fit together properly, in conjunction with the appropriate education and support infrastructure. As emphasized in Chapter 13, it is critical that deployment be well orchestrated; deployment should be deferred if all the pieces, such as training, documentation, and validated data, are not ready for prime time release.


Once the DW/BI system is in production, technical operational tasks are necessary to keep the system performing optimally, including usage monitoring, performance tuning, index maintenance, and system backup. You must also continue focusing on the business users with ongoing support, education, and communication. These maintenance issues and assoc...

Table of contents